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Lindy Boggs, former U.S. ambassador to Vatican, dies at 97

Former United States ambassador to the Vatican Lindy Boggs, whose career in public service spanned 60 years, including four years in Rome during which she served as a staunch advocate for the victims of human trafficking, died July 27 at her home in Chevy Chase, Md. She was 97.

The widow of former Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs, who died in a 1972 plane crash in Alaska while campaigning for a Democratic colleague, Boggs served nine terms as the first woman from Louisiana elected to Congress and was appointed U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in 1997 by President Bill Clinton at the age of 81.

After learning of her death, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond offered prayers for Boggs and her family. He will celebrate her funeral Mass Thursday, Aug. 1, at 11 a.m. St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Visitation will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Boggs will be buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in her home town of New Roads, La.

"I have been in touch with her family to offer the prayers and condolences of the people of Louisiana and especially New Orleans," Archbishop Aymond said. "Mrs. Boggs was an active member of St. Louis Cathedral Parish, and her funeral Mass will take place at the Cathedral at a time to be announced later.

"We thank God for her life of faith and her life of service to the people of Louisiana and beyond. May she know the fullness of God's peace and love."

Boggs retired from Congress after completing her ninth term, in part to care for her ailing daughter Barbara Sigmund, who was suffering from terminal cancer. She has two other children – Tom, a Washington attorney, and Cokie Roberts, a journalist, author and commentator for ABC News and National Public Radio.

Her Vatican service coincided with the latter years of Blessed John Paul II's 27-year pontificate and the Jubilee Year of 2000. As an astute observer of politics, Boggs often marveled at the way in which Pope John Paul II commanded the attention of world leaders.

"The Holy Father probably has the best understanding of our government of any leader west of Paris," she said in a 2001 interview with the Clarion Herald after returning to New Orleans from her Vatican service. "He's such a structured person and a student of history and political theory. He has a love for the U.S. and a respect for our system of government. Sometimes things don't work as expeditiously as we would like."

Besides the Jubilee year ceremonies, other highlights of her tenure as Vatican ambassador were witnessing the elevation to cardinal of five Americans: Francis Stafford, Francis George, Theodore McCarrick, Edward Egan and Avery Dulles. She also had extensive conversations with Vatican officials about "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," which established norms for teachers of theology at Catholic universities, and the resolution of the war in Kosovo.

Boggs may have been most touched by ongoing talks on international trafficking in women and children.

"Trafficking in women and children is a huge problem," she said. "People in refugee camps are just prey. They will be promised something better, and then they are trapped."

There were several perks involved with her Vatican job. Her eldest great-grandson, Andrew Hale Boggs, got to receive his first Communion from the pope during a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square.

"He got to sit down with the families of the saints, and he loved it," Boggs said. "He thought it was all for his first Communion. We had a party at the embassy, and the next morning his family was ready to go back to Los Angeles. Andrew locked himself in the bathroom and said he wasn't coming out. He said he wanted to live with Maw Maw and the pope.

"I thought that was a grand idea."

Among her numerous honors, Boggs received the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal given to a Catholic who has exhibited outstanding public service. She also received the Pope John Paul II Award from the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1998.

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